My favorite thing about summer is getting away from life as we know it! Breaking routine, sailing away, getting out of dodge… or whatever you want to call it. We have it pretty good here in Idaho. All that I have to do is choose a direction, drive and end up somewhere that looks like it should be on a post card. Especially if you find yourself in the direction of the Gospel Hump Wilderness in the Nez Perce National Forest. The Gospels are the highest mountains in Idaho and boasts its highest peak at 8,939 feet at the summit of Buffalo Hump.
We were looking forward to finding some huckleberries and catching a few fish, so we packed our poles, berry buckets and a cooler and headed out for a day trip. Just going for the day was a deciding factor in which lake to go to. In the Gospels, you definitely have your pick of high mountain lakes. There are around 65 lakes and ponds to choose from. We wanted a place that we could drive to instead of hike so we decided on Wild Horse Lake (elev. 7,340) because you can drive right up to it with a pickup. Many of the lakes are accessible with an ATV but you wouldn’t dare try to take a regular vehicle, the roads are too narrow and rocky to even try. The northern and southern areas are more primitive and you are only able to get there by hiking in with a backpack or by packing in with horses and mules. Although it is some of the most beautiful country, it takes more than an afternoon to plan for a trip like that. If you choose that route, you should plan on it taking at least half of a day to pack in to your destination from where you park your car.
The day that we went, we got a beautiful overcast and even felt a few raindrops (which is precious in late July). Even though we saw plenty of fish jumping, the boys didn’t have much luck catching them. They ended up bringing home 5 rainbow trout (just enough for dinner). I just spent my time sitting around and admiring the crystal clear lake, enjoying peace and quiet and snapping pics of the view (a perfect day if you ask me). There was an eagle that flew overhead and a couple of dear that didn’t seemed phased that we were in their neck of the woods. They just stood watching us. I was surprised that we didn’t see any moose, sometimes if we are lucky, we get to see a momma cow and her calf coming down for a drink. Good populations of whitetail deer, mule deer, elk and moose make these mountains their home so it is always fun to see what kind of animal will show up. This area provides a wide array of habitats for several species of wildlife. The open canyons to the south are very steep and rocky providing good place for bighorn sheep and mountain goats. If you are lucky, you get to catch a glimpse of one up on the side of a rocky mountain. There are at least 5 wolf packs now documented to be active within the Gospel Hump Wilderness. Thankfully, I can honestly say that I have never seen a wolf in my life! They seem to keep their distance. A few of the other and more common predators in the area are the black bear, cougar and wolverine. I have seen black bear and cougar but they usually high-tail away as soon as they see you. Thank goodness!!
Spartacus (our dog not the warrior) had more fun chasing around the lake from one side to the other or jumping in the water between the fishermen and their poles (likely the reason for not catching many fish or seeing more wild life). What a character!! I’m not sure what we would do without him and all of his slobber.
There is nothing quite like the sound of laughter. I could hear Elisha’s giggles from the other side of the lake. It was likely because he was trying to avoid getting pushed in the water by his uncle or any other shenanigans that they might have been trying to pull. The loudest laugh was credited to Elisha catching the biggest fish and giving his uncle grief because of it. Just a bit of friendly competition.
For the next trip, we are going to hike up to Fish Lake in the Gospels and stay for a weekend. I’m looking forward to going up again before the summer is over.
If you are planning on hiking in the area make sure to plan ahead. Bring a compass, plenty of food and water, and plan to carry a gun for safety. Many hikers have come in unprepared for the conditions have become lost in the area so it’s best to have someone experienced with you while exploring off of the trails. Click on the link for more information on Wild Horse Lake or any other destination in the Gospel Hump Wilderness Area.